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Don’t find yourself, create yourself

I’ve lent my ears to so many people my entire youth. These people came from different walks of life; some were younger than me, some were my age and some were way much older.

Recently, a friend came to me and said she is undecided of whether she should just give up working abroad and go home to start again or stay but filled with misery. I asked why. She gave myriads of reasons. But, it all boils down to one thing, she wants to find herself.

Being the kind of person who has spent quite a considerable amount of time listening to people’s grievances and remorse, this phrase “I want to find myself” has already become a cliché to me- or even more than that.

I am not an exemption. When things started to drift apart in my senior years in college, or that’s how I thought of it at the time, I decided to move to Bangkok where a different culture and environment would allow me to be on my own and “find myself”.

But now, I realized that it is pointless to try finding ourselves when in the first place we were not born with a set of traits laid before us to fulfill and live by. When we were born, our minds were like an empty bottle and the pages of our book of life were blank. The people and our environment may have poured on or jotted down something but it’s going to be us who will choose what to keep and fill in it. Even this idealism is also a cliché but still we tend to forget no matter how simple it is and rather choose to complicate things by dwelling on what we are not so happy about in life.

So, I told her, “Don’t try to find yourself ‘coz you will not find anything. Why? Because you are not what you are in the past.”

Most of the time, mistakes, humiliations, failures and negative experiences would make us feel we are the worst person in the world. We tend to feel this way because we are affected by how people perceive us. We are disappointed with ourselves because we wanted to be someone better than that.

We have no control over what people would think of us because it will definitely be influenced by their own life schemata and are likely biased to their own experiences and insecurities. So instead of being so affected by what people would have to say, let’s just take their words as an inspiration for us to become better. After all, they are in the same boat with us, also trying to paddle their way towards self discovery.

It is okay if we feel disappointed about ourselves for some time ‘coz it means we are aware that we’ve done wrong. However, staying that way will lead us to nowhere. The best thing about the future is that it offers us so much promises including the chance to envision who and what we wanted to be and all the opportunities for us to become that person.

Life is a never ending process of transformation.  What a shame it would be for a caterpillar to stay as a caterpillar when it can turn into a beautiful butterfly that can soar high and reach far distance – not to mention the hardship a butterfly has to undergo in getting out of its cocoon to let its body fluid strengthen its wings so it can fly.

Love lessons from cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms, who wouldn’t be awe-struck by its captivating beauty? I first marvelled at its grandeur one serene springtime afternoon in London. As I stared at its exhilarating bloom, scenes of romantic films set under a cloud of cherry blossoms or during hanami flashed back. Then I thought, no wonder why it is a favorite spot for lovers, there is something idyllic in it that captures the heart and soul.

What is more fascinating about cherry blossoms is its metaphorical depiction of the ephemeral nature of life, a belief greatly embedded in the Japanese culture.

I haven’t really given this flower much thought until last Friday when my friend Art gave me a copy of Makoto Shinkai’s short animated film “Five Centimeters Per Second (Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru)”. He was not very sure of the substance of the film but recommended it to me because the animation is undoubtedly amazing.

The story is about two elementary best friends Takaki and Akari who were bonded by compatibility. It started with the two watching the cherry blossoms together. After graduating, Akari moved due to her parent’s job and communicated with Takaki through letters. They were both anticipating for the time when they will be able to watch the cherry blossoms again.

Eventually, Takaki decided to see Akari when he knew that they will also be moving which will keep them too far to see each other again. He wrote a letter expressing his feelings to Akari but the letter slipped from his pocket and had flown through the snowstorm. The snowstorm kept the train delayed which made Takaki anxious that Akari might not be able to wait for him.

Akari cried when she saw Takaki. They shared their first and last kiss under a snow covered cherry blossom tree. After Takaki left on the train the next morning, Akari sadly looked at her own letter she had not given to Takaki.

The second chapter focused on Sumida, Takaki’s classmate in junior high who was in love with him. Sumida used to hide on a wall while waiting for Takaki to appear at the parking area before she goes to her own scooter. She did that intentionally to get a chance to drive home with Takaki. She used to spot Takaki writing a mail and secretly wished that it was her who’s getting the message. At the end of the chapter it turned out Takaki’s written mails were not sent.

Sumida decided to express her feelings to Takaki. However, she realized that Takaki has been staring at something from a very far distance; something she knew she will never outmatch. She then chose not to disclose her feelings.

The final chapter showed Takaki leaving his job after he broke down from his distressing life that longs for Akari. Akari reminisced the past when she stumbled upon her letter for Takaki while going through her old possessions. However, she was already engaged.

It ended with the two coming across each other on a train crossing and stood at the opposite tracks. When they turn to look at each other, a train passed blocking their view. After the train had gone, Akari was no longer on the other side. Takaki went on his way, showered with cherry blossoms.

The film was a bit subtle but what is compelling about it is how it shows the agony of unexpressed love in the simplest realistic way, not to mention the fact that not everything has a happy ending.

Perhaps, we can all relate to the feeling of loving someone but couldn’t find the courage to say what we truly feel. When we look at them, how we wish to feel their comforting embrace but the moment they get near us all we can manage to say is “Hi’ or “How are you?”.

If only Facebook was present at the time when this film was written, perhaps the characters will be just like us; prowling at the profile of that special someone looking at every photo and reading every post and comment, clicking “older posts” until we see the message “There are no more posts to show”.

When it comes to love, we all have our different stories to tell. Each story is very special that we never get tired telling them over and over again, with all smiles and giggles. When we are in love, the simple things become meaningful and every moment spent with that someone becomes a treasure, forever engraved in our memory. A simple smile can bring sunshine into our days. A brief eye contact can bring that butterflies into our stomach.

But, in the midst of these frenzy feelings lies a heart drown by melancholy. Words unsaid accumulate each day giving us an unbearable heaviness that we somehow manage to deal with simply because we don’t really have a choice ‘coz letting them out may risk a lot of things.

The title of the film “5 Centimeters Per Second” was taken from the speed at which cherry blossoms petals fall. Cherry blossoms depict the transience of life and how people, at some point stays together and gradually drift apart.

Knowing that life is fleeting, I wonder, will it really be worthwhile to live with “what if” and “if only” in the end?  Are the risks we consider that pull us back greater than the possibilities of being with the one we love? Why is it that most people find the courage to say things out only when the person they love is almost gone?

Then I thought, perhaps the mesmerizing charm of cherry blossoms over a short period reminds us that some good things never last so we should make the most out of it before the wind of time take if from our grasp.

(An instrumental at the end of the film which I kept listening while writing this entry)